I used to post “best of” photo/videos once a month. I haven’t done so in a year. I’m now photographing again, having recovered enough from a stubborn illness. So here are my best photos from March, April, May, and June.
All shot in my kitchen-table studio using flowers from the grocery store.
This is my least-favorite time of year. Once the calendar tells me it’s spring, I expect blues skies and warm air. I usually get winter storms. I never learn that here in Minnesota we can’t expect winter to leave for good until well into April.
So, to counter any depression-type blues caused by the lingering winter, I’ve posted some photos featuring blue-skies-type blues.
I enjoy photographing botanical subjects that are past their prime. Flowers, leaves, other things that are starting to show their age; wrinkles, discolorations, blemishes; such things can add character to beauty. Perhaps I have this penchant because I am (this is hard to admit) beyond my prime and have wrinkles and age spots aplenty. At this time of the year in my neck of the woods, everything outside is past its prime. Everything is dead.* This morning I bought primroses at the grocery store. Some of the flowers are starting to wilt. I thought the wilt spots add interesting new color and texture to the already beautiful flowers.
* A paraphrase of Charles Dickens from David Copperfield:
I looked at her earnestly.
‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’
I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her earnestly, making no attempt to answer.
‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.
‘She is very dangerously ill,’ she added.
I knew all now.
‘She is dead.’
I went to the Chisago Loop of the Riverview Trail yesterday, a trail that goes through the Osceola Bedrock Glades State Natural Area. The trail loops around a knob that is an outcrop of Canadian Shield basalt bedrock. The top of the knob is relatively flat. The bedrock crops out in many places and there are loose slabs and boulders some that look like stones from a small Stonehenge. Between the rocks is shallow soil with sparse grass and a lot of mosses and lichens. There are scattered, straggly trees mostly jack pines.
I went to the knob planning to take a photo to satisfy The Daily Post‘s challenge Dinnertime. I finished the photo but wasn’t as careful as I should have been because the gnats were ferocious and drove me out. Look closely at my self-portrait and you can see the gnats hovering around my head. (Hovering? They were attacking.) I even poured out a half-bottle of beer because I was so desperate to get away from them (OK, maybe just anxious.) Once I got the first acceptable photo, I left as fast as possible. That wasn’t very fast because I had to be careful making my way down off the knob and through the treacherous footing in the loose chunks of basalt.
On my walk to the knob, I photographed a rare, prairie-fame flower (Talinum rugospermum). The flower and the dinnertime photo are the only shots I got. By the time I reached my car I felt like I was in a mild version of anaphylactic shock. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the gnats had certainly spoiled my outing. This was the second time I’ve been driven out of the area by insects. The first time it was mosquitoes. Other than the bugs, this is one of my favorite spots. The one time there weren’t bugs, I spent my time reclining on a large rock soaking up the sun like a lizard.
I took a break after drafting the above and read a bit from Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Wind. What I read gave me some perspective on being bothered by a few gnats. Beryl Markham writes about her life in east Africa when roads were mostly non-existent. She was one of the first pilots in the region. She writes about elephant hunting:
Scouting [for elephant] by plane eliminates a good deal of the preliminary work, but when as upon occasion I did spot a herd not more than thirty or forty miles from camp, it still meant that those forty miles had to be walked, crawled, or wriggled by the hunters – and that by the time this body and nerve-raking manoeuvre had been achieved, the elephant had pushed on another twenty miles or so into the bush. A man, it ought to be remembered, has to take several steps to each stride of an elephant, and, moreover, the man is somewhat less than resistant to thicket, thorn trees, and heat. Also he is vulnerable as a peeled egg to all things that sting – anopheles mosquitoes, scorpions, snakes, and tsetse files. The essence of elephant-hunting is discomfort in such lavish proportions that only the wealthy can afford it.
All I was doing was eating a sandwich and drinking a beer on a hill in civilized, western Wisconsin, and I complain. Markham quotes Baron Von Blixen saying “Life is life and fun is fun, but it’s all so quiet when the goldfish die.”
By the way, I highly recommend the book. A good friend and my favorite bartender recommended it.
Bartenders should always be trusted.
Two days ago I spotted my first wildflowers of the season. Bloodroots were blooming in profusion. The day was eighty degrees and sunny, and the bloodroots were wide open (first photo.) The next day was gray, drizzly, and in the sixties. The bloodroots decided to stay in for the day (second photo). I don’t blame them.
The greenery has popped over the weekend because of the warm weather. Here are more shots of new spring growth.
Yesterday my adventure was at Rose Floral in Stillwater. I discovered that a greenhouse is a great place for photography. It’s like being in a giant light tent. Wonderful light. The plants and flowers are well-lit, well-placed, and easy to photograph – no need to lie on one’s belly when in a greenhouse. It was easy to find nicely back lit flowers. No one seemed to mind that I was photographing. I even said hi to the owner. I did not feel at all self-conscious. I think there was a time when I would have. I am much less self-conscious when taking pictures than I once was. So I got some good photos. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the names of the flowers.
A photographer in Minnesota during the winter often has to turn to indoor subjects. This year I’ve spent a lot of time with flowers that I’ve either bought and shot at home or that were used as table setting at spots where I’ve eaten. Here are some of my favorites from the last few weeks.
The white cyclamen is my photo of the day. I photographed the same flower a few days ago. That photo was in diffused, artificial light. The photo in this post was back lit by natural light coming in a north-facing window. I like the natural lighting better.
This week I have been photographing white and pink cyclamens and a red poinsettia. Did you know that you can get a large poinsettia for $2.00 if you wait till after Christmas. And a potted cyclamen for $1.50? Good, cheap photo subjects when you don’t want to venture out into the artic weather.
On a particularly cold day a few days ago, I bought a small bunch of flowers – a few tulips and three gerbera daisies – intending to photograph them in preference to venturing outside in search of photo opportunities. Here are some photos of the bunch of flowers. Each of these was one of my photos of the day.
Here are a few more recent photos of the day.
I had reached age 65 and had managed to avoid buying a snow blower. I’ve always prided myself on using a good, old shovel, if for no other reason than to avoid the noise of a snow blower. Last season I had a lot of trouble with shoveling and I was coming to dread it. So this year I’ve given in and bought my first snow blower. I will probably need it for only one season so I got a cheap electric snow blower on sale at my local hardware store (hooray for local hardware stores). It works well enough; that’s all I ask. I also had to buy a 100 foot, outdoor extension cord.
After my first trial of the snow blower, I saw that some of my shrub roses still had buds and old flowers, so I snapped a few pictures. Note in some of the pictures the interesting, symmetrical ice crystals.